“What’s your favourite number?”

Mathematician Alex Bellos was intensely irritated by the question. Was that person in the audience mocking him, or possibly ridiculing what he’d been saying about mathematics, to ask such a bizarre and irrelevant question at the end of his lecture? The audience member had asked him, as others had done before, “What’s your favourite number?” In this podcast conversation from Radiolab, Bellos describes his abrupt shift of perspective as he realizes that the questioner is asking in sincerity. Quickly, he discovers ...

Memory as a way of knowing: some resources

In TOK, we’re always on the lookout for fresh resources as we prepare topics and plan to stimulate class discussion.  Sometimes the best sources of ideas turn out to be….our colleagues.  This is no surprise for anyone teaching a subject that, in effect, talks about everyone else’s!  So it will also be no surprise if I draw your attention to posts on this site by my blogging colleague Laura Swash, writing about psychology.  Have a look at her January and ...

TOK: reading the eyes

  Take this quiz first to score yourself on “reading” other people’s emotions.  And then ask yourself, “To what extent do I trust this quiz to give a reliable conclusion, and why (or not)?”  Your evaluation of this method of testing is bound to raise the broader knowledge question, “How do I know what emotion someone else is feeling?”  or, even more broadly, “How can we know, or understand, emotion?” Much of your own life depends on understanding how people respond to ...

Quebec Charter of Values in TOK: perspectives, symbolism, fallacies

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTlDcDYf-ao'] Today protesters march in the streets of Montreal, opposing the newly announced Quebec Charter of Values.  The government of the Canadian province of Quebec has declared that certain values define their society, which has often had a fractious relationship with the rest of Canada.  Among those values – valeurs québécois -- are ones that would broadly capture agreement from Canadians, such as the religious neutrality of the state.  It is the application of this principle that has provoked outrage ...